Illusion…

I can see from the outcry that’s been consuming the world wide interwebs this afternoon that Google must have done something that someone, somewhere decided was evil. Yawn. So what? Google is a multi-billion dollar company working hard to build additional value for its shareholders. Google might own and operate file sharing and storage sites, a ridiculously reliable (and free) email service, blogging platforms, online productivity tools, social media and gaming sites, and its own phone company, but don’t think for a minute that any of those things are really Google’s main business line. They provide all of these things at no monetary cost to the consumer because they are, ultimately, in the sales and marketing business. Their business model involves nothing more scandalous than matching up buyers and sellers for just about any product or service you or I can imagine. Instead of the targeted billboards and newspaper inserts of yesteryear, they use giant server farms and targeted web ads, but it’s really just using a modern means to achieve an age-old end.

From what I’ve been able to gather, sometime a month or two from now, all of us that use Google will be opreating under a new privacy policy that covers every site under their corporate umberella. Personally, I think that kind of cross-platform fusion is precisely what the internet is supposed to be about. Why shouldn’t my experience with Gmail, YouTube, Picasa, and the rest of the Google family of sites be exactly the same instead of each having its own, slightly different take on privacy. If nothing else, the new universal policy will let us all know precisely the position Google is taking. Then we can make an informed decision about whether we accept that policy or not.

If it turns out I can’t live with the new privacy policy, as big as they are, Google isn’t the only game in town. I’m pretty sure I could still dredge up the password from my old Hotmal account if I really had to. Then again, they’re a free service run by another conglomerate who’s trying to sell stuff to me too. Maybe it would be better if I just bought my own mailserver and managed all my own correspondence through JeffMail.com. Alternatively, I could find a company with a privacy policy I believe in and pay them cold, hard cash to provide me all the services that Google wraps up under one umbrella. None of those things seems very likely to happen, though. Instead, I’ll click “accept” when given the opportunity and continue my life without giving it much more thought.

The internet isn’t your house. What we’re doing here isn’t happening behind closed doors, especially when we’re not the ones who own the servers, routers, and other equipment involved in bringing the world together electronically. We certainly have an expectation that companies will make diligent efforts to protect our personally identifiable information like social security and credit card numbers or our account passwords, but expecting an ironclad veil of privacy surrounding our online habits and interaction is, in a phrase, dumber than dog shit. Here’s some helpful advice from your kindly Uncle Jeff: If you don’t want people to find out what you’re up to, don’t do it online. I promise that Google, Facebook, the deposed Nigerian prince, your long lost cousin from Dipshitistan, and possibly the CIA are watching.

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